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The personal cost of the ATO’s mindless withdrawal of people’s ABNs


  • 14 September 2017, the ATO withdraws the Australian Business Numbers from 16 work-from-home mums and dads across Australia.
  • Five in Queensland, two in South Australia, three in Victoria, five in New South Wales and one in Tasmania
  • The people targeted are all on low incomes, most supplementing their spouse’s incomes, disability or other pensions or just struggling on their own.
  • Ten weeks later the people are in financial crisis and being forced on to social security. Well done, ATO!

We first covered the story here.

Profiles of crisis

Here are the brief profiles of 12 of the 16 people who have been forced into crisis by the ATO. We’ve removed their names for privacy reasons.


Personal Circumstances

Stay-at-home mum with 2-year-old.

Health issues – neurological chronic pain.

Being a contractor means she can work when she’s able to work around her child and health.

Financial Implications of ABN cancellation

She is a single parent on Centrelink benefits, and picking up extra work as able to supplement the income.


Personal Circumstances

She has a part–time job as a receptionist as well as typing from home.

Husband is main breadwinner.

She also has a seasonal income making cards (Christmas etc) that she used the ABN for.

Financial Implications of ABN cancellation

Not being able to bring in an extra day’s income from typing means the family budget is impacted


Personal Circumstances

Uni Student.

Living at home.

Does contract typing in semester breaks to help pay for his uni fees.

Contracting is ideal for him as he can choose when he’s able to work and fit around his uni and placement requirements.

Financial Implications of ABN cancellation

Now reliant on parents.

Increasing HECS fees.


Personal Circumstances

Single woman in her sixties.

Centrelink benefits and supplements income with contracting work.

Hand-to-mouth existence.

She is very stressed and worried about her future.

Financial Implications of ABN cancellation

Now unable to supplement Centrelink pension.

Can’t get any other contracting work (bookkeeping etc) without her ABN.

Situation extremely precarious because Centrelink benefit is not enough to cover rent and utilities.


Personal Circumstances

Single woman living remotely in the Blue Mountains where jobs are scarce.

To get employment would mean a 2-hour commute to work each way.

She has an auto-immune disease which means she is unable to work for periods of time.

Her self-employment is a hand-to-mouth existence but it’s her life-style choice.

She is prepared to be responsible for her own tax and super and sick leave etc with ‘eyes wide­ open’.

Financial Implications of ABN cancellation

If she can no longer support herself she will have to go on benefits, which there is a six week wait for payment anyway.

She is wanting to move in with her boyfriend shortly and rent out her house as an AirBNB but won’t be able to do that unless her ABN is reinstated.


Personal Circumstances

Retained ABN but told not to use it for …… or other companies who have the same contractor model.

Extremely distressed and crying during phone call.

Older single woman with family responsibilities.

She has been self-employed for 17 years and that has now been stripped away.

Financial Implications of ABN cancellation

Living off savings.

Will be forced to go on to Centrelink soon because she is 61 and can’t find employment and savings will run out.


Personal Circumstances

Stay-at-home mum.

Contracting gives flexibility.

She has now applied for part-time occupational therapy work but will still rely on contracting work for school holiday periods etc.

Financial Implications of ABN cancellation

Her earnings contribute to the mortgage and household income.

Inability to pick up at-home beauty therapy work now.


Personal Circumstances

Working self-employed since 2009.

Single woman.

Financially supports son in uni and elderly parents.

Cannot work in office – depression / anxiety.

Chronic pain issues – so needs to work at own ability.

Needs flexibility due to caring for elderly parents and taking them to appointments etc.

Financial Implications of ABN cancellation

Currently living on savings.

Registered at Centrelink.

Signed up with NES program at Centrelink.


Personal Circumstances

Was an environmental scientist but had a nervous breakdown 5 years ago.

Living in small country town with limited employment opportunities so began to work for herself providing audio transcription.

This enabled her to be self-supporting and not having to go on sickness benefits while tackling severe anxiety and agrophobia – retained her dignity.

Now she is well she has the flexibility of being self-supporting while travelling around Australia.

When she relocates she is not constricted by the lack of employment opportunities, especially as an older woman.

Financial Implications of ABN cancellation

She has now registered with Centrelink.

She picks up work for another transcription company but has not let them know her ABN was cancelled.  She has decided to take the risk because the financial difficulty is too great.


Personal Circumstances

Works as a part-time employee for two days a week. Has been doing contractor transcription services for 10 years and she picks up contract typing work if she needs to increase her income.

Married but husband is on pension, with a dependent child.

Financial Implications

Her contractor income supplements husband’s pension.

The loss of her ABN has caused concern that she no longer has an avenue of income should the part-time work cease.

As an older woman she has not been able to pick up any other part-time employment and therefore the ability to do contract work was an added security for her.


Personal Circumstances

Single woman.

Has casual daytime employment.

Needs to work at night as a contractor to make ends meet.

Financial Implications

Without the ability to earn extra as a contractor making rent etc is extremely difficult.

Financial situation is insecure because of her casual daytime job and contracting provides her security – especially as a single woman.


Personal Circumstances

Married and husband primary bread winner.

Financial Implications

She now has casual employment but she needs the security of having her own ABN reinstated so she can pick up her own work as well.

Without the extra transcription contracting work she is unable to supplement income as needed.

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